Excavations and Observations on the Defences and Adjacent Sites, 1971-90


list of authors
P. J. Ottaway
list of contributors
D. A. Brinklow
R. Cross
M. J. Daniells
B. K. Davison
T. Finnemore
R. A. Hall
H. MacGregor
R. Marwood
J. A. Spriggs
M. Stockwell
L. P. Wenham
B. Whitwell
S. Vaughan
Is Part Of
The Archaeology of York [Series]
The Legionary Fortress [Volume]
Council for British Archaeology for York Archaeological Trust
Date Copyrighted
Date Available
Digitally available on 16 June 2023
A series of small-scale excavations and observations by York Archaeological Trust and others between 1971 and 1990 has revealed important new evidence for the Roman fortress defences and allows a radical revision of the sequence proposed by the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments in 1962 (RCHMY 1). The earliest defences consisted of a ditch and a single phase of earthen rampart dated to c. AD 71. In the east quadrant of the fortress there is evidence for the erection of stone towers and, perhaps, for work on a stone curtain wall in the early 2nd century. A more substantial programme of reconstruction in stone took place in the later 2nd century, but may have been restricted to that part of the circuit between the porta decumana and the porta principalis sinistra except for a stretch of wall on the south-east side of the defences near the south corner. The remainder of the defences probably received a wall, towers and gates during the 3rd century, but not in the late 3rd or early 4th century as has hitherto been accepted. A reconsideration of a small stone tower on the north-west side of the defences near the west corner (the Anglian Tower) suggests that it may be a late Roman refurbishment of the defences.

Excavations in the retentura near the east corner have allowed a stratigraphic relationship to be worked out for the first time between the fortress defences and internal buildings. Evidence was found for timber barracks and other buildings of late 1st century date. They were probably deliberately demolished in the early 2nd century, to be followed by a phase of stone buildings erected in the mid-late 2nd century. There was also evidence on sites in the retentura and in observations in the praetentura for a widening of the inrervallum in the early-mid 2nd century. A metrological analysis of the fortress plan has allowed the outlines of its late 1st century layout to be predicted and has provided a context for many of the excavated remains.

Some of the sites described had suffered truncation by modem buildings, but, except for a remetalling of the via sagularis, evidence for later 3rd and 4th century occupation on the undisturbed sites in the Aldwark/Bedern area was extremely sparse. This may mean that this part of the retentura was little used in the later Roman period.
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York Archaeological Trust
CC BY 4.0
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